Five people sharing one bathroom — two parents and their three girls. This was my life growing up.
It was an acceptable way of life. No arguments, no whining or cries of “We need another bathroom.”
It was your basic nonissue.
Honestly, I did not know anyone who had more than one bathroom per family per apartment. I mean, really, why would I? Everyone I knew lived in an apartment.
At Camp Kindervelt and at Camp Kinderring, where I spent all my summers, first as a camper and then as staff, we had two stalls for each bunk, filled with eight to 10 campers and two staff counselors. We took turns cleaning and polishing.
The cleanest bathrooms received a banner announcing our win, which was displayed on the door of our bunk.
At Public School 44 and PS 92, there were the mandated number of stalls in each of the bathrooms for boys and girls. Roosevelt High School, where I excelled each of my four years in socializing, also provided the mandated number of stalls.
Unless we were on lockdown.
No one had the chutzpah to think about how many stalls were in the nearest bathroom, nor how far we were from said bathroom. We were huddled under our desks or in a closet.
There were two kinds of lockdowns. One to prepare for the Communist invasion and the atom bomb, the other to prepare for the invasion of the Fordham Baldies, our local teen gang of gangsters extraordinaire.
Ah, but I digress.
Let’s not lose our train of thought; let’s stick with the topic at hand. In this case the topic happens to be bathroom stalls.
It seems to me, when it came to stalls, I always behaved like one of Pavlov’s dogs (remember them?), always waiting for the same stall to become unoccupied.
I will divulge a secret that I’ve kept to myself and that I share only with you: I have preferences, and I do not appreciate someone else using my preferred stall.
I never wished them ill; however, I did wish they would somehow disappear so I could pretend the stall was reserved for my tushy.
Wherever I am, I can sense which stall will afford me the most comfort. Of course, when a desperate situation presents itself, I have learned to be flexible.
I was, and still am, one of the few people who always thank the staffers who keep my stall clean and filled with toilet paper. Toilet paper, now that could be a topic for TED Talks.
I am grateful to the staff at the airport, my workplace and other water closets (strange way of saying bathrooms) I may frequent for their dedication to cleanliness.
I feel I should make something very clear to you. I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression of me. I come from the Bronx. My needs are fairly simple.
Bronx girls understand the difference between needs and wants. Wants are things we aspire to. I do not need a warm seat. I do not need a seat that knows how to put its own lid down. I do not need a seat that lights up at night. I don’t even need a soft seat, although this could easily become a need.
I’ve learned the hard way that not all stalls are equal.
I’ve entered a stall that seemed quite inviting, only to slam my elbows into the sides, or, after I shut the stall door, my knees reach the door. Have you met me? I am not a tall person!
Have you ever entered a stall and gotten comfortable, only to realize the absence of toilet paper? Seriously, who ya’ gonna call? Ghostbusters?
That is when you must rely on the goodness of strangers, assuming there is a stranger in the stall next door who happens to be into being good.
The answer to your question asking why I would spend my precious time sharing stall stories with you: Unlike the news we are subjected to every day, this shpiel will not give you heartburn. At least I hope not.